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Uncovering the Brill Sound with Up on the Roof

October 9, 2023

Joey Panek has worked as a professional stage actor for about 15 years, performing on national tours and at regional theatres across the country.

After living in New York City for 3 years, he moved to Sarasota in 2006 and has become an important figure in the local arts community. Over the years, he has performed with FST Improv, produced an online video series, and appeared in productions at Manatee Performing Arts Center, American Stage, and freeFall Theatre.

This Winter, Panek makes his FST Cabaret debut with Up on the Roof, a new music revue celebrating the legendary songwriters—like Carole King and Gerry Goffin and Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller—who churned out hit after hit during the ‘50s and ‘60s. These well-known songwriting teams helped create what became known as the “Brill Sound,” a musical style that mixed Latin rhythms, R&B, and Rock & Roll into pop music.

We sat down with Joey Panek to talk about his favorite song to perform in Up on the Roof, why the “Brill Sound” is timeless, and what he enjoys most about performing in a Cabaret at FST.

Is there anything about the “Brill Sound” that you were surprised to learn during the rehearsal process?

Yes, everything! I had, of course, heard of the expression, “the Brill Sound,” but I never learned what it actually was until I joined Up on the Roof. I knew most of these songs on their own, but I hadn't understood their connection to the Brill Building and all of the songwriters of the '50s and '60s. It's been a cool history lesson to dive deeper into this music. Fun fact: I used to work near the Brill Building when I lived in New York and would walk by it every day, never knowing I was walking by a piece of American music history.

Pictured: Joey Panek. Photo by John Jones.

What is your favorite song to perform in Up on the Roof and why?

Every performer will always pick one of their solo or lead songs as their favorite, so I'll admit I love "Stand by Me" and "You've Lost That Loving Feeling." However, there is something different about this show. Some of my favorite moments are when I'm singing backup to one of the other singers. The backup vocals for all of these songs are so rich and fun to sing. I think if I had been working in the music industry during that era I would've been happy to be a backup singer. 

Why do you think the songs featured in Up on the Roof have stood the test of time?

These songs are all so well written. They have great melodies and lyrics that really speak to us. Because of that, the songs have stayed in pop culture throughout generations. I believe that when a particular song can be identified with a specific time in my life, I'll always have a soft spot for it. I think that's the case with so many of these songs.

Pictured: Joey Panek, Brandon Wardell, Jannie Jones, and Jacquelyne Paige. Photo by John Jones.

Many audience members will recognize you as one of the hosts of Sarasota’s morning talk show, Suncoast View. Is there anything that you’ve taken away from your experience on television that you’ve brought to Up on the Roof?

I get to share Suncoast View with a strong team of co-hosts, and I'm lucky that I get to do that in Up on the Roof as well. I was a stage actor long before I got into television, and it's so nice to be back onstage in this format, where I get to be myself. Instead of playing a character in a script, I get to show my own personality on theCcabaret stage, which is something I got more comfortable doing on a lifestyle talk show.

Is there anything you would like audiences to know before coming to see Up on the Roof?

I'd say that you should be prepared to hear so many songs that you know and love. And it's okay to respond to the music. Because this is a Cabaret setting, we're allowed as performers to make eye contact with the audience. One of my favorite things is when a song starts and we see an audience member recognize it and reach over and touch the hand of someone next to them. It's really sweet.


Up on the Roof is now playing in FST's Court Cabaret. For tickets and more information, click here.


Header Image: Joey Panek in FST's "Up on the Roof." Photo by John Jones.